This will be a brief introduction to the concept of refuge and the refuge commitments as well as a very brief look at the root bodhisattva vows. Refuge isn't something we say, it's what we do moment-by-moment, it's the state of our mind - it's a continual process that infuses our mind so that we know what to do. How we act with a mind of refuge is what protects us from doing negative things and encourages us to do positive things. Understanding refuge is really what protects us because it causes us to think and act in a certain way, according to the teachings of karma. When we formally take refuge, it's considered the gateway to the whole Buddhist path, so we'll discuss what this means and what formal refuge entails.
Bodhisattva vows are a way of training our mind and enhancing or strengthening bodhicitta, the mind wanting to become a Buddha for the benefit of all living beings. They are a sacred and very powerful way to guide us to becoming bodhisattvas and eventually Buddhas.
We especially created this informal class for those who are contemplating, or who have already decided, to attend Lama Zopa Rinpoche's special jenang on the Medicine Buddha next Sunday night at 7:30. If you have not already taken refuge and/or the bodhisattva vows, you will do so at this event so it's important to know what you are committing to. We've requested a longer explanation of the complete set of bodhisattva vows after the events and will announce this at the teachings. All are welcome to both parts of this class even if you don't take the vows this time. It is fine to discuss and study these commitments as a way of preparing to engage in this special practice.